Houston, Texas is the fourth largest city in the United States. Only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago rank higher. Houston is a diverse city. It is also a successful sports city.
Minute Maid Park is an outstanding baseball facility. Reliant Stadium is one of the finest football stadiums in the NFL. The Toyota Center is a top tier basketball facility and already hosts a hockey team, the AHL Houston Aeros.
Why hasn't the NHL put a team in Houston? It makes no sense. If the NHL is serious about selling its product, how do you ignore the fourth largest population in the United States and the largest city in the state of Texas (Larger than Dallas, which has the Stars)?
One could argue that Houston wouldn't support a hockey team. It's football country. It's hot. It rarely even snows in Houston and when it does, it doesn't stick.
Believe it or not, there is evidence to the contrary.
A look at current NHL attendance figures reveals that the lowest average attendance currently resides in New York, with the Islanders. The Islanders in 17 home games have averaged 9,966 fans per game. The Phoenix Coyotes average 10,857.
If we take a look back to the only time that Houston had second tier major league hockey in town, we would have to go back to the days of the WHA. In 1975, when the Aeros were a successful WHA team, the Houston franchise averaged 9,180 fans per game. Remember, this was not an NHL product, this was the WHA. In fact, the highest average attendance that year resided in Quebec and they logged in at 9,885.
But, we don't have to stop there. Right now, Houston hosts a minor league hockey team, the Aeros. Let's face it, you don't attend minor league hockey games unless you just love hockey. Right now, Houston is seventh in AHL attendance with 5,766 fans per game.
If the NHL will put teams in Columbus and Phoenix, there is no excuse for not putting a team in Houston. It would be good for the NHL, it would be good for the expansion of the sport and the fourth largest city in the nation deserves a major league team.